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Senate Democrats have reached agreement on revised voting rights legislation, but a major obstacle remains in the equally divided chamber as Republicans stand ready to halt progress on the bill.
The package is the latest attempt by Democrats to thwart Republican-led state-level measures to restrict voting access and change the administration of elections.
The new legislation, unveiled Tuesday morning by Democratic Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar and several cosponsors, builds on a framework proposed by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who had opposed a previous and sweeping measure by his party .
Along with Manchin, the co-sponsors of the new bill are Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Jon Tester of Montana, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Alex Padilla of California, as well as Independent Senator from Maine Angus King. .
Republicans have united against what they call a federal takeover of state electoral politics. With an equally divided Senate, a GOP obstruction stands in the way of Democrats, and their efforts would fall short of the 60 votes needed to move the measure forward.
The new legislation, called the Freedom to Vote Act, includes many provisions of the Democrats’ sweeping People’s Law, which has met with Republican obstruction.
The revised bill would make election day a public holiday, ensure that every state offers same-day voter registration, establish minimum federal standards on postal voting, and ban partisan gerrymandering among its provisions.
“The entire working group on voting rights, including Senators Manchin and Merkley,” Klobuchar said in a statement, “is united behind legislation that will set basic national standards to ensure that all Americans can vote any way that suits them best, regardless of the zip code in which they live. ”
The bill also includes Manchin’s call for a voter identification provision, but would allow voters voting in person to “present a large set of ID cards and documents in both paper and digital form,” according to the press release.
Democrats have expressed new openness to voter identification requirements.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and the free vote law is a step in the right direction towards protecting this right for every American,” Manchin said. “As elected officials, we also have the obligation to restore [people’s] confidence in our democracy, and I think the common sense provisions of this bill, like the flexible voter identification requirements, will do just that. “
The new legislation also includes measures to prevent electoral subversion. The statement said it would establish “protections to isolate non-partisan state and local officials who administer federal elections from unwarranted partisan interference or control.”
A separate Democratic Voting Bill, a measure named after the late John Lewis to restore voting rights law, passed with Democratic votes in the House last month.
Klobuchar, as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, hosted several events to solidify new support for Democrats’ voting rights efforts, including the panel’s first field hearing in Georgia last summer .
Yet even as Democrats strive to build up votes in their own party, Republicans remain largely opposed to such reform efforts.
That said, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said the chamber would proceed anyway to illustrate the party’s solidarity around the effort. Schumer filed a procedural motion before the August recess to resume the plan during the current shift. The Senate returned from its recess on Monday.
Some supporters say the move will help heat up the debate to remove legislative obstruction, although members such as Manchin have repeatedly said they remain opposed to such action.